December 17, 2007

Ononiwu's Jumper Delivers Gauchos A 65-63 Win Over Pepperdine

Dec. 17, 2007

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Trailing 63-56 with 1:40 remaining, UC Santa Barbra scored the game's final nine points and came back to defeat Pepperdine 65-63 Monday night in the Thunderdome. Chisa Ononiwu scored six of her 10 points during the decisive run and hit the game-winning jumper with four seconds remaining to seal the victory.

The Gauchos, who trailed by as many as eight points Monday night, snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-5 overall this season with the win. UCSB is now 2-2 at home in 2007-08. The Waves fell to 5-4 on the year after losing their second straight.

Pepperdine's Miranda Ayim scored a game-high 21 points and gave the visitors their largest lead of the second half when she knocked down a pair of free-throws with under two minutes left to play. They would be Pepperdine's final points of the game.

Senior guard Jessica Wilson got to rim and converted the easy opportunity on the following possession and it was all Santa Barbara from there.

After the Waves called a timeout to draw up a play, senior Daphanie Kennedy missed a layup and fouled Ononiwu going after the rebound. The Houston, Tex. native went to the line and calmly sank both foul shots to pull the Gauchos to within three (63-60) with 1:14 left on the clock.

Ononiwu came up big defensively down the stretch as well, getting a steal on the following possession, and then found Wilson underneath the hoop for an easy layup to cut the deficit to just one with under a minute remaining. The Gauchos forced another Pepperdine turnover the next time down and freshman forward Ashlee Brown was fouled hard in transition on the play. She came out of the game and Kat Suderman came on to shoot Brown's free-throws. Suderman made the first and missed the second, but the loose ball went out of bounds off the Waves, giving the ball back to the Gauchos with 19 seconds remaining and the game tied at 63-63.

After a timeout, the ball went to Ononiwu at the top of the arc and the senior guard dribbled roughly 10 seconds off the clock before smoothly hitting a jumper from the free-throw line with 4.4 seconds left to play.

Pepperdine still had a chance to respond, but Kennedy's potential game-tying shot fell short as time expired and Santa Barbara held on for the 65-63 win.

"I knew what I was going to do all along," Ononiwu said of the final play. "My teammates really pumped me up and I took my time. I just pulled up when I was ready. The shot felt good right away."

Ononiwu had just one bucket at halftime and scored eight points in the game's final 2:24. She also finished with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Suderman led UCSB with 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting, while Wilson and Meagan Williams each scored nine. 12 of the 13 Gauchos that played got into the scoring column.

Junior guard Lauren Pedersen had best game as a Gaucho, finishing with six points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals in 21 minutes off the bench.

Ayim's 21 points came on an impressive 8-for-11 performance from the floor. She also tallied seven rebounds, two assists, and four blocks. Kennedy finished with 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting and also hauled in seven rebounds.

For the game UCSB shot just 36.5%, making 23 of 63 shots, while Pepperdine finished at 44.8% (26-58). Santa Barbara shot 11 more free-throws than did the visitors and finished 16-of-20, 80%, while the Waves were 7-of-9, 77.8%.

The Gauchos won for the first time this season when getting out-rebounded by the opposition, surrendering a 41-35 margin to the Waves. But UCSB's defense made up for it, forcing 27 turnovers.

"I thought our defense played really well tonight," head coach Mark French said. "We got out and forced Pepperdine into a lot of turnovers and I think our pressure really distracted them from what they were trying to do offensively. We forced them into some key mistakes down the stretch and our players responded."

The Waves raced out to a 9-2 lead in the first 3:40, but the Gauchos answered with an 18-9 run capped off by a Sha'Rae Gibbons 3-pointer to take a 20-18 advantage with 8:30 remaining in the opening half. Pepperdine scored eight of the next 10 points to pull back in front (26-22), but Santa Barbara responded once again and took a 35-32 lead into the locker room at half time.

UCSB missed its first four shots of the second half and the Waves took a 42-39 lead with 13:54 remaining after a Kennedy triple. Pepperdine held a lead of seven points five different times in the second half.

Santa Barbara returns to the court after the holidays and will travel to Missoula, Mont. for the Lady Griz Holiday Classic. The Gauchos open the two-day event against host Montana Friday, December 28 before taking on Mississippi on Saturday. Tip-off for both contests is slated for 6:00 p.m. (PST).

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